Lessons in the palm of pupils’ hands

A Christchurch com­pany hopes to bring aug­mented re­al­ity into the class­room to change the way pupils learn, writes Blayne Slab­bert.

The Press - The Box - - TECHNOLOGY -

The days of only learn­ing through books is near­ing an end as tech­nol­ogy cre­ates new op­tions in the class­room. Tablets, apps and video chat are be­com­ing part of pupils’ lives as they learn through dif­fer­ent me­dia.

Eric Woods wants to take it a step far­ther.

His dream is to use aug­mented re­al­ity to make learn­ing more in­ter­ac­tive and to ex­pose chil­dren to ways of learn­ing pre­vi­ously seen in sci-fi movies.

Woods, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Christchurch-based MindSpace So­lu­tions, hopes his prod­uct, Imag­i­nal­ity, will en­able pupils to do things such as ‘‘hold’’ a beat­ing 3-D heart in the palm of their hand and see how blood flows through it.

Aug­mented re­al­ity is a bur­geon­ing tech­nol­ogy that takes a view of the real world and places vir­tual con­tent on it, as if it was in the real world.

He has al­ready cre­ated a pro­gram for Win­dows com­put­ers but has launched a Kick­starter cam­paign to bring it to mo­bile de­vices.

Imag­i­nal­ity works by us­ing hand­held pad­dles that when viewed through a cam­era have vir­tual ob­jects at­tached to them.

These ob­jects then in­ter­act in var­i­ous ways such as lock­ing to­gether to build a ma­chine or you can hold a pad­dle up to your head to wear an arte­fact.

He said tablets and phones are suited to Imag­i­nal­ity as you can look ‘‘through’’ them like a win­dow into an­other world. Other ad­van­tages in­clude walk­ing around in­ter­act­ing with vir­tual ob­jects and shar­ing them with oth­ers in the class.

While aug­mented re­al­ity is be­ing ap­plied in other ar­eas, Wood wants to fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion.

‘‘I’ve al­ways had a de­sire to ap­ply tech­nol­ogy to ed­u­ca­tion to make ed­u­ca­tion a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence. There is a lot of po­ten­tial here that is still un­tapped.

‘‘Ed­u­ca­tion is one of the most pow­er­ful things that de­ter­mines a per­son’s suc­cess in life and we spend so much of our life on it so it is re­ally im­por­tant.’’

While he says tech­nol­ogy has a large role to play in ed­u­ca­tion it will never take over ev­ery as­pect.

How­ever, tech­nol­ogy has the po­ten­tial to teach chil­dren bet­ter than other meth­ods in sub­jects such as astron­omy. ‘‘Be­ing able to get as close to hands-on as you can with phys­i­cal ob­jects so you get the ben­e­fits of in­ter­act­ing with it.

‘‘Also, be­ing able to do things you couldn’t nor­mally do such as com­par­ing two plan­ets side by side ac­cord­ing to scale.’’

As people get more com­fort­able with the tech­nol­ogy, teach­ers will be able to make their own lessons and pupils will be able to con­trib­ute to a li­brary of re­sources.

Woods says it is the early days of aug­mented re­al­ity but it has lim­it­less po­ten­tial.

‘‘We are still fig­ur­ing out the ways people will use the tech­nol­ogy.’’ MindSpace’s tech­nol­ogy is cur­rently be­ing used in more than eight coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, Aus­tralia, Mex­ico, In­done­sia, Sin­ga­pore and New Zealand.

Woods is con­fi­dent of rais­ing the $120,000 needed and hopes the cam­paign will not only bring in cash, but also feed­back about the prod­uct.

If suc­cess­ful, Imag­i­nal­ity could be in schools by the end of the year.

Photo: SUP­PLIED

Game changer: MindSpace hopes its aug­mented re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy will make learn­ing more in­ter­ac­tive.

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